It seems to me that one of the problems of the average bodybuilder who finds it hard to make good gains is that he gets caught up in the
belief that in order to grow it is necessary to take all of the latest super-duper, hightech food supplements that are out on the market,
and that special food supplements are more important than the foods we eat. This just ain't so.
If more people spent their hard-earned money on good food instead of food supplements I think there would be many more satisfied bodybuilders walking around. I'm not saying that all supplements are useless or that supplements aren't a big help in developing a muscular body but a supplement is just that, a supplement to your diet. Food comes first; supplements are secondary. It's for this reason that reputable bodybuilding experts like John Parrillo tell bodybuilders to get their diets right first before they spend any more on supplements.
The rationale behind this thinking is simple. If your diet is poor, taking in extra supplements will not improve it, but if your diet is good, you can make excellent gains while you build your health, too, without any supplements. Then if specific supplements are added in, they can act as a "kicker" to promote further gains.
We have to get back to the basics of eating good, nutritious, wholesome foods. Remember, the food you eat each day is your daily training fuel and building material, so you want to eat foods that promote muscle gain and fat loss, foods that build health, energy, endurance and vitality. This means wholesome, natural, nutritious foods such as fish, poultry, lean red meat, organ meats, eggs, low-fat cheese, skim milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, whole grain, rye or bran products, as well as nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods are high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and co-enzymes and all the nutrients you need to feed your body.
You want to avoid foods that promote fat gain and that do not build energy, vitality and health. This means you want to avoid as much as you can all canned and processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat, and that are devoid of nutrients. Such foods are high in "empty" calories and are calorie dense but nutritionally low. I'm talking about things like cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, donuts, ice cream, candy, chocolate bars, soda pop, potato chips, French fries, greasy burgers and all fast food. Also are included any white flour products such as macaroni, spaghetti and white bread. Just by eliminating these foods from your diet you go a long way in improving the ability of your body to function properly and to build muscle as fast as you can.
There are some foods that are so high in nutrients that they fall into a special category by themselves. I call these wonder foods "power" foods because they can be used as both food and food supplement at the same time. By adding all or some of these power foods to your diet you drastically increase the amount of nutrients you can get through your diet each day. These foods will actually energize your body, increasing your health, energy and vitality, so you can train harder and longer and recover better from your workouts. This stimulation translates into a bigger, stronger and more muscular body.
Here, then, is a list of some power foods I suggest you try adding to your diet:
BREWER'S YEAST: This potent food is derived from nature's tiny yeast plant. It is one of the richest sources of the entire B-complex. It is approximately 50/percent protein, and it is protein of a good variety, containing all eight essential amino acids. In fact, brewer's yeast contains about ten times as much protein as the same amount of whole wheat flour. It also contains 14 minerals and 17 vitamins!
Brewer's yeast is also extraordinarily high in nucleic acids, including RNA, the cellular components that govern many vital processes including the rate of aging. It is the best source of chromium, which occurs in brewer's yeast in an organic compound known as GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor). This substance helps the body's glucose tolerance mechanism to function properly. Besides improving glucose tolerance, brewer's yeast can help to lower cholesterol and to reduce stress. At the same time it is low in fat, carbohydrates, sodium and calories, making it ideal for weight-watchers, vegetarians, diabetics, hypoglycemics and, of course, athletes.
It is available in powder, flake and tablet form. Admittedly the powder and flake forms aren't everyone's cup of tea, but the taste can almost be disguised when mixed in tomato or fruit juice. For those who really dislike the taste of yeast, use the tablets. Five to 10 tablets four times a day will do the trick.
LECITHIN: Lecithin is a true wonder food. Few other foods, do so much in so many ways to improve and preserve good health and youthful vim and vigor. Lecithin is a natural constituent of every cell in the human body, but its highest concentrations are in the vital organs - the brain, the heart, the liver and the kidneys.
Lecithin is nature's natural fat emulsifier. Being rich in choline, inositol and linoleic acid, lecithin has the ability to break up cholesterol and prevent it from accumulating on the walls of your arteries and may help dissolve deposits that are already there. In the liver, lecithin metabolizes clogging fat and reduces the chances of liver degeneration.. In the brain, lecithin choline is transformed into acetylcholine, a vital compound for the transmission of messages from one nerve to another. This has a proven effect on memory, thinking ability and muscle control.
It has also been found to increase immunity against virus infections and to prevent the formation of gallstones. Of special interest to all bodybuilders, lecithin helps to rid the body of extra bodyfat. By increasing high-density lipoproteins, it helps to protect your cardiovascular system.
Lecithin is available in three forms: granules, capsules and liquid. The granules are the most potent and cost-effective way to take lecithin. It takes ten 1200mg capsules to equal one tablespoon of granules. The liquid form is usually one-third soybean oil, which adds unwanted calories. I favor the granule form myself. I just take a small sip of water, immediately put a heaping tablespoon into my mouth, and then wash it all down with a glass of water. Try one tablespoon at breakfast and another after dinner.
DESICCATED LIVER: This is another one of the true super foods and should be taken regularly by all athletes. Liver and other organ meats have long been recognized by nutritionists as one of the most nutritious classes of foods.
Liver is rich in B-12 and the full B-complex. It is very high in protein, amino acids, iron, minerals and the amazing energy factor P-450. In studies in the laboratory, rats that were fed desiccated liver could swim ten times as long as rats fed a typical North American diet but fortified with B-vitamins. This was due to P-450. Most bodybuilders and athletes who take large amounts of desiccated liver report almost Instant improvements in their energy and recovery ability.
Liver, like yeast, is not everyone's favorite food, but by taking desiccated liver tablets can enjoy all the benefits of liver with none of the problems of trying to force down a food you dislike. I suggest 5 to 10 tablets four or five times a day.
PAPAYA: Papaya is high in the digestive enzyme papain, which is used to help digest protein. You can have a piece of fresh papaya with each protein meal or have a glass of fresh papaya juice. Besides adding digestive enzymes, papaya adds vitamins and minerals too, making it a great addition to any meal.
WHEAT GERM: Wheat germ is the heart of the kernel of wheat. It is an excellent source of protein (24 grams per half-cup), B-complex: vitamin E and iron. It also contains many minerals. Added to your morning oatmeal or cereal, it adds a host of nutrients to your breakfast to help you get the day started off right.
BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES: This is truly a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Gunnar Sikk, the Canadian Iron Guru, is a big believer in the benefits of blackstrap molasses. People often belittle molasses because it is a by-product of white sugar, bodybuilders' natural enemy, but molasses contains more calcium than milk, more iron than eggs and more potassium than any other food.
One of its real benefits is to all those who suffer from joint pains and stiffness, as blackstrap molasses contains an anti-stiffness factor. Use blackstrap molasses in your protein drinks, as a sugar substitute on cereals and even in teas.
YOGURT: Yogurt has been a food staple in many areas of the world for centuries. Milk that has been fermented by a mixture of bacteria and yeasts forms a custard-like product called yogurt. The main benefit of natural yogurt (not the type to which sugar and artificial flavors have been added) is that it is high in lactobacillus acidophilus, a special strain of "friendly" bacteria which is necessary for the health of the intestines. This friendly bacteria helps to eliminate the unfriendly bacteria that cause gas and indigestion. If digestion is disturbed, foods you eat may pass through without being digested and assimilated properly. Obviously this is the last thing a bodybuilder wants, so you can understand why yogurt could be a real benefit to all bodybuilders and athletes.
Yogurt can be eaten as a snack after meals or mixed in with a protein drink; in any case, try to eat a cup of yogurt every day.
CHLOROPHYLL: Chlorophyll has been nicknamed the "green steroid" because it is a strong sex hormone precursor. It is high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. It is often used as an internal cleanser and odor controller because of its strong anti-toxin properties.
Chlorophyll has a host of benefits to the bodybuilder and the athlete. It strengthens the immune system, stimulates growth and; repair to the tissues. It also accelerates the healing of wounds and injuries. Being 60 percent protein, it is useful for keeping the body in positive nitrogen balance.
As mentioned, chlorophyll contains sex hormone precursors, meaning it increases the level of sex hormones in the blood. When taking 10 to 12 tablets a day, many athletes report increases in sex drive, along with more strength and the ability to work out harder, train longer and recover faster. Because it is such a powerful detoxifier, it is useful for those with tendon and ligament problems. It even seems to help improve digestion by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria, thus promoting bowel health. Some even report help with pioblem acne.
Chlorophyll comes in both water- and fat-soluble forms. For maximum benefit, try taking both types. Aim at two or three tablets with each meal, and try to take at least 10 a day. You should notice increases in strength right away. Some people have added 20 pounds to their bench press in a week when they started taking chlorophyll.
SEEDS: Seeds are the ripened ovules of plants. Seeds are high in protein, fiber, B-complex, vitamins A, D, and E, unsaturated fats, phosphorus and calcium. They are also low in calories. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, two of the most popular seeds, are especially high in zinc. Zinc is very important in improving the function of white blood cells, our main defense against invading bacteria and viruses.
Zinc also aids glycogen production, as well as cell growth and the formation of connective tissue. It also governs muscle contractibility and is essential for protein synthesis and the action of many enzymes. Zinc is especially important to the bodybuilder because it helps the body use up lactic acid. A lack of zinc can cause fatigue and a susceptibility to infection and injury.
Seeds can be eaten raw, roasted or cooked. They make a great snack. Frank Zane used to put half a cup of sunflower seeds into his protein drink. They can also be added to salads, casseroles and baked goods. Next time you have the munchies, reach for some seeds instead of that muffin or candy bar to get a big boost in bodybuilding nutrients.
NUTS: Nuts are the dry fruits or seeds of some kinds of plants, usually trees. Some of the more common nuts are pecans, filberts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds and cashews. (Sorry, peanuts are not actually nuts. They belong to the legume family.) Nuts are a concentrated source of protein, unsaturated fats, B-complex, vitamin E, plus many minerals. Like seeds they can be eaten fresh, roasted or cooked and make a perfect snack, especially when combined with other foods such as milk. To get more variety in your diet, add some of your favorite nuts to your meals and snacks.
FISH OILS: Fish oil, especially from those fish that swim in cold ocean waters, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are a major source of omega-3 oil, a class of fats that have far-reaching health benefits. Omega-3 oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats and seems to reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. They are also said to lower blood pressure, reduce cancer risk factors, prevent migraine headaches and relieve arthritis inflammation. They reduce very low-density lipoproteins in cholesterol. Omega-3 oil also eases eczema and psoriasis.
To make sure you are getting your omega-3 oil, you can take omega-3 supplements or you can eat broiled or steamed fish of the type listed above.
BEE POLLEN: Bee pollen is high in protein, vitamins, lecithin, bioflavanoids, as well as some minerals. It contains all essential amino acids, has many enzymes and co-enzymes, as well as RNA, DNA and lipids. It is considered a near-perfect food and has been credited with many healing properties. In fact, it has been called a natural penicillin.
It is said to soothe allergies, to stimulate interferon production and to act as a mild pain killer. It strengthens the thymus gland - hence the immune system - and has many energy factors. Eastern bloc athletes have been reaping the benefits of bee pollen for many years. Only now are Western athletes taking advantage of bee pollen.
It is available in various forms: lozenges, capsules, tablets, tincture, salve, granules and powder. For athletic purposes, I believe the granules are the most potent and cost-effective form. Put a heaping tablespoon into your mouth and quickly wash it down with water or juice. Try this twice a day. You should notice increased energy in a few weeks.